UK surveillance Bill: Parliament swallowing an iceberg, says NO2ID

Brussels, 04/11/2015. The new draft surveillance bill is like an iceberg, with a vast bulk of technical change obscured beneath the surface, according to civil liberties organisation NO2ID[1]. UK Home Secretary Theresa May presented the Investigatory Powers Bill [2] to Parliament today as a measure “consolidating and updating our investigatory powers, strengthening the safeguards”.

However this is no consolidation. NO2ID believes that it amounts to a dramatic alteration in the powers already available, not just to the intelligence services, but also to police, tax inspectors, and officials and regulators in almost every department of state [3], replacing several pieces of complex and technically difficult legislation.

Guy Herbert, General Secretary for NO2ID, said, “I would have more sympathy for the Home Secretary if she did not resort to glib hypotheticals about kidnapped children. This is not a proposed bill that is easy to understand or straightforward in effect. The change in oversight focuses on a tiny portion of cases, the handful of warrants issued by Secretaries of State every day, not the tens of thousands of surveillance actions a day by officials on their own recognisances.”

“The Bill is an iceberg,” he continued. “It is easy to focus on the sunlight glinting on a few peaks; much harder to grasp the important bits beneath the surface. What is clear is that Parliament is expected to deal with all of this before the expiry of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act at the end of 2016 – to swallow the iceberg before its dimensions can be fathomed.”

Notes for editors

1) ) NO2ID is the national campaign against the database state, the tendency to try to use computers to manage society by maintaining state files on the population as a whole.

2) Statement to Parliament 4th November 2015:
https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/home-secretary-publication-of-draft-investigatory-powers-bill

3) Hundreds of official bodies have access to communications data and other surveillance powers, including bugging – which does not count as interception and does not need a warrant for an authorised agency.